Sunday, April 29, 2012

"The calm before the storm......."

With Sunday forecast as a total washout with high winds I thought I'd get out on Saturday and first thing visited Park Wood in Talgarth again hoping for Wood Warbler,no such luck I'm afraid,the woods were very quiet in the blustery and cold conditions,not even last week's obliging Marsh Tit was around.
I did however come across a nice group of four Yellowhammers in bracken on the edge of the wood and managed a couple of shots.
On my way back to the caravan for a spot of lunch I called down at the lake hoping that a few passage terns may have been feeding.
The water levels were incredibly high and although there were no terns around there were hundreds,probably a 1,000+ hirundines feeding over the water.
They were mainly Swallows with some Sand Martins and fewer House Martins.
I spent an enjoyable 3/4 hour trying to photograph a few which was not easy to say the least but I managed some reasonable "record" shots ("toggers" term for photos he's not that happy with !!).
I thought I'd check out a couple of woods in the afternnon and first of all visited "Youth Hostel Wood" opposite Craig Carrig Gleissad again where my main target was Common Redstart and immediately found a distant pair on a hawthorn bush in a field on the edge of the wood,disappointingly they didn't hang around and I failed to refind them or any others in the hour or so I was there.
No sign either of last week's Pied Flycatcher.
I moved on to Llandefaelog Wood nr Cradoc which was even quieter the only birds of note being a pair of Common Buzzards and a Chiffchaff.
I thought I'd finish off the day at the lake with a walk from Llangasty to the new hide and got a very pleasant surprise when a Hobby flew from a tree near the gate entrance to the hide and hurtled past me towards Llangasty,what a sight !!
The lake was still littered with hundreds of hirundines and a few Reed Warblers sang in the reedbeds,a pair of Coot with two young swam past and on the way back to the Jeep I picked up a Goldcrest,Blackcap and Tree Pipit.
Not the best of days but at least I managed to get out which is more than I can say for today !!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gropper.....patience required !!

Decided to make the most of a nice evening,probably the best of the week looking at the forecast,and straight after work popped up to the field behind Maesteg Cemetery which has great habitat and generally holds a few "reeling" Grasshopper Warblers.
I quickly found two birds at opposite sides of the field but getting them to show was another story,I had fleeting glimpes of both low in the vegetation and after giving up on bird two moved back to the first bird I had found.
It reeled away giving me the odd glimpse and then finally after 2hours and 10minutes with the light failing it popped up on to a bramble and I managed a few reasonable shots.
Unfortunately I had to crank up the ISO to cope with the gloom and to give me some sort of shutter speed so the resultant images are a little on the "grainy" side.
Never mind,hopefully the weather will improve and I can put in a few hours on a weekend with some nice light.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Birdin' without bins"

My main aims for the weekend just gone were to catch up with and hopefully photograph Wood Warbler and Pied Flycatcher whilst up at the caravan.
The weekend got off to a great start when whilst travelling over Cefn Cadlan common on the A4059 between Penderyn and Beacons Reservoir on Friday evening a Short-eared Owl flew directly over the front of the car at about 15' giving great views,Teresa has seen so many SEO shots of mine over the winter that even she recognised it and "called" it,we'll make a birder of her yet !
Forgot to mention that whilst driving up the A465 and about 30 mins from the house I realised that I'd forgotten to bring my binoculars and as we were in Teresa's car I didn't even have the luxury of using my spare pair which I keep in my car.
The weather was reasonably kind on Saturday morning as I made my way up to Park Wood in Talgarth,despite the wood being alive with bird song Wood Warblers were conspicuous by their absence and whilst they've arrived in the UK they obviously haven't quite made it to this part of the world yet.
I picked up the call of a Marsh Tit which showed quite well and allowed me to get some shots that I was quite pleased with,the light was quite good as well which was a bonus.
Other birds seen/heard were Chiffchaff,Willow Warbler,Blackcap,Treecreeper,Common Buzzard and a pair of GS Woodpeckers.
After an afternoon in Hay on Wye with Teresa I took an evening stroll down to the lake hoping to pick up Reed Warbler in the small reedbed near the Crannog (only to save me a fair old walk !!) but to no avail,I walked back to the caravan and whilst passing the small wood near the entrance heard the call of yet another Marsh Tit which was quite obliging and allowed me to get some nice shots.
My plan for Sunday was to visit the small the small "Youth Hostel" Wood opposite Craig Cerrig Gleissad in the hope of connecting with Pied Flycatcher and as I got out of the car I heard the display song of a Tree Pipit which despite having no bins (doh !!) picked it up in the trees near the gate whre it posed nicely for a few photos just before a heavy shower set in and had me scuttling back to the car.
Whilst I sat in the car listening to "The Boss's" latest monumental offering two other soggy "toggers" came from the wood to the car parked in front of me,seems Steve Hinton and Nigel Addecot obviously had the same idea as me.
The shower passed and the three of us returned to the wood to find a single male Pied Flycatcher which we couldn't really get on to before the rain set in again and I beat another hasty retreat whilst Steve and Nigel the hope of getting some shots.
The lads finally got back to Steve's car looking rather damp and bedraggled and didn't hang around,I decided to sit it out and after a while the rain finally ceased.
I decided to give it another go and refound the flycatcher in the same area of the wood where the three of us had seen it previously and after a while it came down lower in the canopy,I hastily rattled off some shots which given the miserable conditions turned out quite well assisted by a brief "window" of decent light.
Just as I was hoping for better and the bird was giving good views the heavens opened once again and forced me to call it a day.
Mission for next weekend.........Wood Warblers (weather permitting !!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring on the River Llynfi,Maesteg

Didn't go up to the caravan last weekend so spent some time locally an hour of which was watching a family of Dippers near the Tyler's Arms at Llangynwyd with the juveniles still being fed on occasions by the parent birds.
Didn't quite get really close enough to absolutely "nail" a couple of shots but enjoyed all the same.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"A visit to Ospreylia"........

You wait years for one........ and then three turn up at once !!
It's the start of our fifth season at the caravan in Llangors and despite putting in the hours I'd yet to see my first passage Osprey in the area,I just could not have predicted what was about to happen last Sunday 8th April.
I'd arranged to meet Wayne at the layby at Craig Cerrig Gleisad at 8.00am to have a look for Ring Ouzels and whilst driving up through Libanus at 07.55 Wayne phoned to say he thought he'd seen an Osprey overhead near Llwyn-on Reservoir and that he was stopping to check it out.
I suggested that he also check Cantref Reservoir on his way through and I would drive on and check the Beacons Reservoir.
I pulled into the layby,scanned the pines on the far side of the water and to my amazement immediately picked up the bright white breast of a perched Osprey !
Assuming it was the bird Wayne had seen I tried to phone him but "no mobile reception",I quickly got the camera out of the Jeep and fired off a few record shots of the perched bird.
The minutes ticked by and then an hour had passed,by then I had guessed that Wayne must have also found an Osprey and we had both been frantically trying to contact eachother,I wasn't going to leave the bird as I hoped for a flight shot,Wayne finally arrived at 09.20.
He advised that he had got the word out quickly of his initial sighting,Rob Mitchell had dashed up from Cardiff and they had both seen an Osprey take a fish and then disappear out of sight behind larches on the west side of the reservoir to enjoy it's meal.
I replied "different bird to that one perched over there then" pointing out my find !!
Wayne's face was a picture and as we couldn't contact Rob by phone Wayne dashed back to Cantref to tell him the news and they both soon returned,the bird had just taken to the air and we all enjoyed good views and myself and Rob rattled off some shots as the bird headed north-east to disappear from view towards Pen Y Fan.
We waited a while but the bird did not return and so we decided to head down to Cantref hoping that Wayne and Rob's Osprey had put in another appearance,we waited at the layby for about an hour and suddenly the bird appeared from nowhere to perch in the trees opposite.
We moved down to the shore and after a while the bird took to the air again to move a couple of hundred yards down towards the dam,Wayne said his goodbyes at 12.45 and Rob and myself moved along the shoreline to get opposite the perched up bird.
Rob scanned with his bins and to his amazement exclaimed that there was another Osprey perched not 30' from the bird we had followed,one was terrific but two was incredible !!
We watched both with cameras poised and after a while one of the birds made a dive and connected with a large Rainbow Trout,it really struggled to get up out of the water with the fish and being what seemed only 15-20' from the shore eventually dragged the fish ashore and proceeded to tuck in.
After a few minutes the other bird plunged from it's perch and a major squabble took place with the original bird eventually managing to hang on to it's prize.
It did however take it's "eye off the ball" and the other bird quickly nipped in to take the fish and fly off over the hill behind us in a north-easterly direction,it didn't return.
The other bird returned to it's perch in the pines and after a while made another dive,this time missing it's intended victim and proceeded to fly off north-westerly at a brisk pace.
We decided to call it a day and after walking back up the shore to the layby where we were parked glanced back with our bins to see that the bird had doubled back behind us and returned to it's original perch.
We weren't going to give it another go and said our goodbyes after reflecting on what had been one of those incredible days that only happens all too infrequently,I didn't get to see any Ring Ouzels after all,still there's always next time...............

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Another Year on the Patch

Written by Gethin . . .

As you might already know, back in late 2009 my father and I took on our new Patch - a place to go birding without having to use the car and also to relax and escape from the women of the house. (DJJ: I honestly didn't write that!).

We wrote a report in January 2011 about our first year on the patch and here, better late than never, is the report about how we got on last year.

The Patch, in north West Cardiff, consists of all of the Forest Farm / Glamorgan Canal Nature Reserve and the land bordering it; the River Taff all the way up from Whitchurch to Tongwynlais and, on the other side of the river, the Taff's 'flood plain' to the east of Radyr.

The Radyr Flood Plain aka 'The Scrub'

Our first ever Year List for the Patch, in 2010, was 84 and we decided to try and break it in 2011 - but this time we would try a bit harder. I put in a lot of after school visits, especially in the autumn. This is how we got on . . .

First Winter

December 2010's big freeze brought in some 'scarce' birds for the patch and most of them hung around into January. Birds like Tufted Duck, Coot and Teal were all picked up without much effort on the River Taff. We caught up with a couple of Common Gulls, a Peregrine, small numbers of Goosander and a pair of Mute Swans. Sadly, some other good birds that had been seen in late December didn't hang around. The male Wigeon had gone, there were no fly-over Lapwings and the Bramblings had disappeared too. But, things were about to improve as Spring crept in.


As April arrived the list of birds began to grow as migrants started to arrive. An afterschool visit proved worth it when I found a Lesser Redpoll, and a couple of Common Redstarts in The Scrub joined the tally. But, the highlight, also at The Scrub was a Lesser Whitethroat rattling away. It wasn't heard again over the next few weeks so we don't think it hung around to breed.

Common Whitethroats were back in good numbers at The Scrub by mid-April and a Sedge Warbler - scarce here, and another bird that doesn't hang around to breed - was seen from one of the Forest Farm hides. As were a couple of pairs of Reed Warbler - which do breed. A Wheatear on April 20th was, surprisingly, the only one of the year.

The view from the 'doorless hide at Forest Farm.

The Summer

We didn't manage to add any Patch Year Ticks in the Summer, but we did manage to get confirmed breeding evidence for quite a few birds: Willow Warbler, Whitethroats, Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Bullfinch were the best ones. Nothing special appeared until . . .

The Autumn

The irruption of autumn migrants began on 27th August when I found 3 Whinchats in The Scrub, along with 2 Redstarts and a Tree Pipit. (DJJ: Over the next couple of weeks we saw several different Whinchats and Tree Pipits). The next day the second Lesser Whitethroat of the year turned up and then on the 30th a Spotted Flycatcher was found in the middle of dozens of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. On the 31st I found the year's only Common Sandpiper on the river.

We finally got Linnet and Garden Warbler on 3rd September and Dad at last got his Sedge Warbler patch tick on the 4th (DJJ: finally stopping Gethin's constant gripping off) but a Grasshopper Warbler on the same day was a patch tick for both of us.

My how the Boy Birder has grown - see how much here

The next good bird was a really unexpected surprise . . . I flushed a female Pheasant on The Scrub! It didn't look in very good condition but it hung around for about ten days giving Dad a chance to catch up with it too. Not a bird to get excited about normally but, being a first for the Patch, we were more than happy to see it.

We finally broke last year's Year List record when a Crossbill flew over on October 16th. According to the Glamorgan Bird Club Database, this was the fist record for the patch since the 1990s - before I was born! We were doing high-fives when we also found a Stonechat on the same day.

The final patch tick of the year (number 87) was a Goshawk which flew over distantly on 29th Oct. From there on, we were praying for cold weather to bring in more birds, bit it never came.

So what did we miss in 2011 that we saw in 2010? The really bad one was Tawny Owl. We went looking for one several times and we can't believe we didn't hear one calling. It was one bird we were sure we were going to get. The other species we dipped on from 2010 were Wigeon, Bittern, Lapwing, Brambling and Pied Flycatcher. But, I have to admit I was lucky to get Pied Fly the previous year.

New patch ticks for both of us in 2011: Lesser Whitethroat, Whinchat, Treep Pipit, Spotted Flycatcher, Grasshopper Warbler, Pheasant, Crossbill and Goshawk.

For me: Lesser Redpoll.

For Dad: Sedge Warbler and Stonechat.

Our new Complete Patch List Total now stands at: 96

And our predictions for the future? Well, Red Kite and Marsh Tit have both been reported from the Patch lately. A passage Wood Warbler or Cuckoo would be good, as well as wintering Woodcock, Jack Snipe and Firecrest. Dad wants a Yellow-browed, but the bird I want most of all is a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

We've already had two new patch ticks in 2012, but you'll have to wait until 2013 to find out what they are!!